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ECU alumna Madeleine Cross finds talking openly key to tackling mental health challenges

Thursday, 10 September 2020

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Ms Madeleine Cross graduated from ECU's Graduate Diploma of Broadcasting in 2019 and her career has gotten off to a flying start.

Last year she was the recipient of the Charmaine Dragun Memorial Award at the WA Youth Awards, it's just one of a series of awards that have helped kickstart her career.

The award is named after former Channel Ten newsreader Charmaine Dragun, who died by suicide in 2007. After training at the WA Academy of Performing Arts, Ms Dragun worked at Perth radio stations 6PR and 96FM before making the move to television.

Each year the memorial award recognises a young journalist who has done outstanding work reporting on issues relevant to young people. Ms Cross was recognised for a piece she created for her course, which saw her interview young men from suicide prevention initiative 20talk, alongside leading mental health expert Professor Patrick McGorry.

Since graduating she has completed a paid internship at The West Australian newspaper, and then moved on to undertaking a placement at ABC News24 in Sydney. The Paul Lockyer Memorial Prize allows a talented graduate to spend three months at the ABC.  Both opportunities came via her ECU course.

Catching up with Ms Cross ahead of this year's RU OK? Day activities she reflected on the challenges of working away from her family and not being able to return to Western Australia due to the COVID-19 situation.

"As I’m originally from Perth, and I’m in Sydney right now, it is really tough not knowing when you’ll see your family and friends again, because there isn’t an end – but there could be soon, we just don’t know." Ms Cross shared.

Reflecting back on her accolade for reporting on mental health during her training, Ms Cross said while young people are talking more about mental health we still need to do more to initiate and facilitate discussions.

"I think being young, I was 23 last year, mental health is a big part of young people’s lives and it’s really good that people are talking about it more.

"I heard about this group 20talk through some friends speaking about it, and I just thought about how amazing it was, because I’ve never heard young men talk and speak so openly as these guys." Ms Cross said.

"I don’t think I’ve ever spoken so openly as they do in their group, I just thought it was really interesting, so I reached out to them, I thought their message was really powerful. They’d been through a lot; they’d lost a few friends to suicide and I just thought it was admirable how these young guys were so open about their mental health. I don’t hear a lot of men talking about mental health."

For her award-winning report Ms Cross spoke to Professor Patrick McGorry, one of Australia's leading experts in mental health, who was generous with his time for her university assignment.

"It was intimidating. I was really surprised that he took an interest in this project, especially as it was for a Uni assignment, but he was so interesting and intelligent and treated it really seriously.

"I didn’t feel like it was a Uni assignment during our conversation. He put a lot of thought into his answers and it was really good to get his insight into youth mental health and mental health within males." Ms Cross said.

Working in media has been a long-held ambition for Ms Cross who shared that she always had an interest in english, drama and writing. She completed her undergraduate degree focusing on marketing and media, recognising that the modern media landscape requires a broad range of expertise, and the need to adapt regularly.

"Media is such a hard industry, it’s very fluid and you change roles a lot. So, I did Marketing as well to help with that." Ms Cross explained.

The three-month placement working in TV production at ABC News24 allowed Ms Cross to dive into the world of breaking news and tackling big issues, much of her time has been focused on covering the coronavirus outbreak. Since completing the internship she's stayed on at the broadcaster moving across to their digital media team.

"I did TV producing during the internship and the news channel has been really good at wanting to train me up in other areas, so right now I’m doing some digital producing which is their website and YouTube, it’s really good to be over here in Sydney at the ABC Headquarters and be amongst it all."

While she's enjoying her work behind the scenes, Ms Cross shared that she still has ambitions to be in front of the camera.

"I have always wanted to be a reporter, and I am still keen to get into reporting, but working in TV producing and digital producing has really shown me how much work goes into everything, and it’s so much fun being a Producer," Ms Cross said.

If you need mental health support 24 hour assistance is available from Lifeline 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au or BeyondBlue 1300 22 4636 and www.beyondblue.org.au.

The original version of this story was published on the Student Intranet and can be accessed here.

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